Ayurveda and Taking a Pause on the Menopause
There is still a stigma attached to menopause, though lately it is talked of more in the press and this may be slowly changing. However as women approaching menopause, we can start to fear we will no longer be attractive or appealing to our partners. We may not be not as productive in our lives, or as quick to perceive, and we may lose the sharpness and endurance of youth. We fear that after menopause, all the symptoms we associate with ageing may start to take their seat within our bodies and minds. We may start to become more forgetful, generally ailing and fatigued, plagued by all manner of aches and pains. Ayurveda tells us these conditions are NOT a natural part of ageing. If they arise in our later years, they are more likely to be an indication of us having lived against rather than in alignment with nature’s rhythms and the nature of each cycle of life, an indication of long-term imbalance in our lifestyle choices, our diet, and indeed our psychology. Even if we have not lived the most healthy and balanced life, it is never too late to make changes and reap the rewards of those changes.
We have all met those women who take charge of their lives and well-being and just seem to age radiantly and look even better in their later years than they did even when they were younger. The light of their spirit and the wisdom of their years shines through their eyes and in the graceful manner in which they deport themselves. Menopause can be a transition into this very kind of womanhood. As we transition through menopause, we are actually moving into a golden age of life. We perhaps start to give ourselves permission to slow down, be less hurried and become less pre-occupied with the material in terms of the body, our productivity and acquisitiveness in the material world. We start to follow an inner calling that may have been there for years in our hearts but other duties called. We perhaps feel a natural pull to redefine ourselves Then indeed we can start to shine and blossom more in our post-menopause years. From an Ayurveda perspective menopause is a call to turn inwards more, to move closer to the soul, to our essential nature and to express that.
From an Ayurveda perspective, during menopause we are pulled back to our essential selves, and are invited to enquire into existential questions such as “Who am I really?” “What is my real nature?” “What is that speaks to me more and more that is beyond the ordinary every day?” Allowing ourselves this greater connection with our innermost through the menopause, supports us to embrace and experience the autumn of our lives as a joyful, enriching, profound time: indeed, as a “golden age”. Finding our answers to these essential questions about ourselves, we can become more assured, contented and radiant than ever. Struggling against this natural phase of life and against the call of the soul that accompanies it, we experience all the physical, mental-emotional struggle, and contraction of being that we see widely accompanying menopause and the years that follow it.
With the gift of hindsight, having passed through menopause recently and come out the other side, I would welcome it as a fantastic rite of passage in a woman’s life. It is a transition into a more mature wise, empowered womanhood, into a golden age of life. We have raised the kids and they have likely left the nest leaving us free to turn our attentions back to ourselves. We have or haven’t had our careers and have probably stopped worrying about that. We have become more settled in ourselves, more comfortable in our own skin. And we have long years of experience as major forces in our families, our communities, workplace and sometimes society at large, which give us the chance to establish ourselves as the wise elders in our families and communities. Menopause is a time which if embraced can be celebrated as a transition into a phase of life where we stand as expressions of the grace, fullness, strength and radiant inner beauty that shines from the archetypal regal woman, the queen: a transition into a stage of life where we can stand with heads held high as a woman who knows herself, who has met and grown through life’s experiences and all the challenges and blessings it brings. Let’s embrace the wisdom of Ayurveda and make menopause a time to welcome as each one of us does indeed become “queen” in our own domain of life.
Alkalising the body is an important factor in reducing symptoms of menopause. Acid is hot, isn’t it? It burns. And so acidic foods are going to increase heat and inflammation in the body, aggravating common symptoms of hot flushes, night sweats and joint pain. Additionally, the liver has a lot of work to do during menopause due to the surging hormones and this places extra strain on this hard working organ. Not overloading it with processed and acidic foods is therefore really important. Choosing a plant-based diet with a high quantity of vegetables, especially dark leafy green vegetables will support alkalinity in the body. And in Ayurveda it’s not recommended to eat a raw plant-based diet. Favour cooked foods. In cooking, our foods in effect become partly digested and so are much easier for our digestive system to assimilate and eliminate waste products from the foods.
There are measures that we can take in addition to diet to reduce acidity in the body. Exposure to chemicals in the home and in our food chain can increase acidity. Reducing this in the home environment and choosing organic foods are important choices generally these days for our health and well-being but again become especially pertinent during menopause. Many chemicals mimic our hormones, particularly oestrogens and we call these chemicals xenostrogens. They wreak havoc in our endocrine systems as they flood cell receptor sites in our bodies with hormone-like substances. It is another reason why eating plant-based die is important: not only for its alkalising effects but also to protect us from the hormones fed to animals and found in meat and dairy products.
Other causes of acidity are stress and worry, which is why a simple balancing and calming daily Yoga practice is a great support – always and especially during times such as menopause when the body is under extra pressure. Favour daily practice of a Yoga style which is more gentle and steady-paced than fast and heating. This will calm the nervous system to reduce stress symptoms, help to promote better sleep at night, and build and contain energy for the daytime. Plus many of the familiar Yoga postures are working specifically with our endocrine glands and with the support of a proper diet, can help to redress hormonal imbalances which may be aggravating symptoms.
It can be this simple and safe, economical and achievable to reduce and indeed even be symptom free through menopause. There are no risky side effects in the remedies described above but great benefits for your long-term health in general. A recent research study within the NHS found that, contrary to what many women on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) have been told, it is not without risk. This NHS research study found that actually there is increased risk of breast cancer after only one year of taking HRT, with risk increasing the longer HRT is taken. That increased risk can last up to ten years after stopping HRT. As you can see, it takes some more effort on our parts to take an Ayurvedic route through menopause. However it has to be worth it doesn’t it? Ayurveda recognises that our dietary and lifestyle choices through these transitional years of perimenopause and menopause will have a great impact on our health in the years ahead, through our 60s, 70s, and even our 80s. An Ayurvedic programme is do-able. You don’t HAVE to do it 100% as Jane did. That can feel drastic and daunting when far removed from our current eating and lifestyle habits. Even doing it 70% will make a difference. With the support of herbal remedies, alongside an alakalising diet, adjusted by an Ayurvedic practitioner to suit your metabolic type, and a balancing lifestyle programme to combat stress and build stress resilience, our bodies can be returned to their natural state of equilibrium. In a state of balance, we can pass through this most natural phase of life symptom free.
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